Saturday, 28 April 2012

And so it came to pass......

The last day of holiday, packing is done and dusted, breakfast is eaten, and off we went into town for a last stroll; it didn't last long as we got to the second park to find an orchestra set up in the band stand ready to perform a 2 hour performance, chairs and umbrellas were available for this who wanted to watch and the band struck up - people watched, people danced and the band played on....

What a fitting way to spend a last morning in Zagreb ..... Till next time

Friday, 27 April 2012

Zagreb returned, and the tale of the toilet roll.....

By now we had been traveling in our trusty little Opel, living out out of suitcases and shopping bags, the car was covered in dust on the outside and covered with towels, shoes, swimming apparel, suitcases, shopping bags with leftover shopping, a large white dirty linen bag and numerous other bits of detritus from three weeks in a car..... and up to the front of the 5 star Regent hotel we drive......

Pam exits vehicle and enters hotel to check in.....
Hotel porter exits hotel to assist me....
Porter now stands with hands gently clasped on his chest with a pious look on his face befitting the best of bishops while i am now trying to pack our Chinese laundry on wheels into suitcases and laundry bag....
"we've been travelling for three weeks" I tell him by way of apology...
The porter stands and patiently watches.....
A procession of suitcases, shopping bags and laundry bag now proceeded to form a minor mountain on the hotel doorstep...
"we've been travelling for three weeks" I tell him again by way of apology...the porter stands and patiently watches.....

And now enters or should I rather say exits the bag of toilet rolls all over the front step of the hotel.... the porter stands and patiently watches.....
Frantic running around herding the toilet rolls and now emptying bags of rubbish from the car, the mountain grows ...."we've been travelling for three weeks" I tell him yet again by way of apology...the porter stands and patiently watches.....
By now a small convoy of cars is backed up behind me all waiting to discharge their very elegant occupants with equally elegant suitcases... And the toilets rolls, well they roll
Pam is sitting chatting away inside, I am sweating outside and so the loading of the porters trolley begins, I'm quite surprised it didn't break a wheel.
And in goes the mountain to stand side by side other far more elegant luggage in the foyer......

Did I mention.... "We've been travelling for three weeks you know...."

Back to Zagreb.......

Driving back was pretty uneventful, with a stop overnight in Žaborić at Villa Doni where we had stayed in on the way down, which was really great as we not only broke the trip but we got to swim again in the Adriatic the next morning and generally laze around a bit.
The road back to Zagreb was on the A1 highway - set the speed control to 130 and peddle down the road......


The trip into Dubrovnic proved interesting, the person managing our stay - it was an apartment just outside Pile Gate - couldn't give us directions to where we were to off load the car and wasn't overly interested in trying and also wasn't going to be meeting us but rather sent a "second" to meet us, he couldn't really give directions either, so three very frustrations revolutions of the city including circuits way up the mountain pass above the city, we eventually arrived, and so the scams began; the person meeting us on taking us to the flat now asked for a 10 EU "service charge" but if we didn't know about it we didn't have to pay, we didn't so no pay, and away he went.
We then had to park the car about 10 minutes away in a parking garage and pay up front for three days parking.
The apartment was very well located and very clean an comfortable but with very sparse amenities... 2 cups, 2 plates, 2 glasses.... so basically don't have friends round for dinner - you never know when one may have friends unexpectedly for dinner.
In the city there were hucksters continually trying to get you into overpriced restaurants, and tons of overpriced souvenir shops, bargains and good cheap food was to be found in the back streets away from the main Stradun ( main street)
Scam number 2 - We stopped for a couple of drinks, basically double what we had paid for elsewhere and then the waiter tried to add on an extra 30 Kuna to the bill - quick argument and all was resolved.
A big enjoyment was the walk on the city walls, about 2 kilometers long, up and down stairs, up and down towers, getting stuck in a small pillbox on the walls and two hours later back down, a rather poignant site from the walls was all the new red tile roofs, a stark reminder of the homeland war and the dreadful battle for Dubrovnic.
The churches and Cathedral were amazing if not a bit ornate for my taste compared to others we had seen around Croatia
The next day saw drinks at the iconic Buža bar, exit the walls and into a small pub smeared up the cliff face....
And finally onto scam number 3 and this time they got me, on taking the car out of the garage they told me our ticket was wrong and I had to pay in extra basically now paying double the cost of the garage stay.

My opinion of Dubrovnic is its a large impersonal soulless monument with a few redeeming features, but to stop in and visit and then get back out.

And so back to Zagreb......

Split, broken back and Korčula

Traveling around, into and out of Split proved to be a bit of an experience, small roads, frenetic drivers and driving foreign (right hand side) eventually got to me, I swerved to avoid an on coming car on the corner of an exceptionally small road and clipped a tyre on the curb bursting the tyre, during the changing tyre manouevre I managed to put out my back ( putting out backs has been a constant problem for me since being kicked by a horse in the military in 1978, and for years being fixed by my long suffering physio )
But this did not deter us .....

Our trusty GPS nagging Nellie suffered a brain hemorrhage and had to be retired and so we acquired GPS Emily who for the first part didn't quite know what was expected and nearly found herself airborne from the car on a number of occasions.

Onto Korčula island- paradise found in a small sea side town Lumbarda Beach, by this point my back was pretty bad, so I asked our hosts to direct me to the nearest doctor, he promptly hoped in the car with us and took me to the nearest emergency clinic where for a ridiculously small sum of money i was treated with anti-inflammatory and cortisone injections immediately and supplied with doses for the next 2 days and instructions to return accordingly, and we went on our way.
The next morning we headed into Korčula town for a bit of site seeing and some gourmet food to assist in the recovery process.
Walking around the old city of Korčula included an excellent whole fish lunch that we had become rather partial to eating - usually a red scorpion fish, followed up by some shrimps that were actually prawns.
We also got to see Marco Polo's house ( at present under renovations)
Comes saturday morning and there is a hustle and bustle in town - everyone is heading out in a small flotilla of boats to the nearby islands to clean up rubbish that has floated up on the tide from neighboring countries and would we perchance be interested in joining.... OH HELL YES!!! Said I..... You'll hurt yourself said Pam..... pfffff let's go anyway, so we did and we cleaned and got dirty and it rained on us and we came back tired but elated.
It was then onto lunch with our hosts and their family.
A walk down the side of the bay was then in order and then back to the apartment to enjoy a bottle of wine grown and made by our host, the wine had been accompanied by two slices of cake for my birthday.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Stone towers, monuments and other stories....

Stone towers, monuments and other stories....

To start this entry let me begin by informing you that I have a rather interesting - although probably not always at the time penchant for climbing historical towers, monuments and cathedral domes or ascending modern towers when such access is permitted.
My list to date includes;
St. Paul's Cathedral - London Monument - London
Walter Scott memorial - Edinburgh
William Wallace monument -Scotland
Zadar tower - Croatia
Split Cathedral - Croatia
Trogir Cathedral - Croatia

Now in most cases long suffering Pam will accompany me on my jolly little jaunts up these edifices with not an undue amount of enthusiastic if not always strictly acceptable language, we have done St. Paul's twice, Monument, Walter Scott and William Wallace each once.

Now all of the historical towers/monuments are constructed of stone with in all cases a combination of stone and metal staircases .... so prior to this trip only one of significant incident to me was Walter Scott in which I got my self jammed - no I am not fat, I had a daypack on my back - in a stone spiral stair case and the unfortunate situation was the more I laughed the more I jammed - took a while to relax - exhale and deflate enough to extricate myself.

Enter Croatia and a whole new vista of towers to climb.....

The town of Zadar and along comes the 15th century bell tower of Zadar cathedral, the wind is blowing a fair gale and the tower is pretty much open to the elements, a little and I mean little sign warns that climbing said tower is entirely at your own risk... rule one...always ignore signs..... So we pays our money and up we go - Pam included.... Pam's language improves the higher we climb, the wind is howling through the tower and Pam finally grinds to a halt, not an inch further can I coax her, so ever onwards goes I, now as you will see I am climbing an open metal staircase inside a hollow stone tower - as I always say... a mere walk in the park..... some park, but the views were incredible, but unfortunately what goes up must come down and I am never sure which is worse the ascent or the descent, on the ascent you stare into the abyss and your possible untimely future.

But safely down and lessons not necessarily learnt when along happens Split cathedral, so who am I to look a gift tower in the mouth or doorway.
A whole new horror is presented to me, a beautiful metal stairway spiraling up the inside, dare I say walls, actually wide open pillars of the tower, Pam went up halfway before she was overcome by the delight of the climb and with a great bleating and gnashing of teeth had to stop and relax while she waited for me to return.
I would like to say I closed my eyes and soldiered on but my eyes for some reason seemed to bulge open from the shock and again with death grip on the paltry railings climbed onwards for the top, again I was rewarded with the most incredible aerial views of the city, others who also made it to the top seemed to have the oddest of caricature smile plastered to our faces, I can only imagine that mine was mirrored on their faces, then with dread we descended into the abyss again.

Don't ever learn..... Hell No!!!!
Trogir cathedral, Pam yet again accompanies me to the first level via a stone spiral staircase, but she seems to learn far quicker than me... and stopped as soon as stone gave way to metal and vast open spaces, now let me say this; even I was concerned for my continued existence, this staircase had all the promise of something
Each staircase had the smallest of stone landings just waiting for me to step on and promptly snap off after centuries of labouring under the weight of gawping tourists, let me not even mention the wind blowing through the tower, again followed by the now very predictable aerial view and decent, this time however with a blast from the past..... No you didn't see this coming..... Yes I got stuck at the top on said rickety metal staircase with the by now ubiquitous paltry handrails ( dont know why they even bother to install them other than for decoration or amusement) with said daypack and an abyss below me... bit of pushing and shoving - no there wasn't any laughter, nothing seemed funny this time round, and added to this scenario the stairs were quite far apart so not only was I given the delightful view on either side of the open staircase and out the tower but down the sides and between each step...
Down now, safe..... Would I do it again...... Hell yes, in a heartbeat

Friday, 13 April 2012


Drove in from Žaborić, parking was a very interesting experience, you can either pay with cash in the parking machine or you SMS your car registration - to somewhere in the ether - you then get an SMS back in Croatian accepting payment - how imminently civilized.
Then on into the city first to the castle and onwards to the other sites.

Visited the Church of Sv. Catherine with a small statue or reliquary of Sv. Catherine with some of her bones inside a small viewable window as well as some original books written in 1448, absolutely incredible to see the writing and illuminations.

We wandered up and down the small paved alley's until Lunch time when down came the rain giving us an excellent excuse for lunch at a restaurant called Alpa,
Karlovačko beer is pronounced Karlovach - the "o" drops off some where same as the the silent "q" in horse "hqorse" - shows how silent it is.

We are now starting to have a problem thinking english and speaking English " I want to make salt on our sandwich's", we are finding that talking to the local people we use very clipped English and are now starting to talk to each other like that.

Went to see the Cathedral of Sv. James, it had the most amazing stone carvings inside and out, inside it is not painted like most traditional cathedrals but rather the stone is left clear creating a very interesting picture.

Pam then tried driving foreign and also handled it well leaving from town.

Tomorrow it is onward to Trogir... All of 65km so that should only take us about 2 hours....

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Žaborić near Šibenic

Started the morning with a stroll from our apartment, walking along the beach front for about 2 hours, then back to the apartment to decide what to do for the day.... It was to be a trip into Šibenic for the day, but first a quick dip in the Adriatic sea to cool down after the walk..... yes it's still early spring so the weather in the morning is still a tad chill in the shade but quite warm in the sun, the sea on the other hand is about a half degree of being able to walk on..... i.e. pretty cold, or to be more correct 15C or for others 59F, so in I plunged - Pam was more delicate and eased in up to her waist, much more sensible, I was in for a whole 30 seconds before exiting rapidly, only to return a couple more times equally short.

We were then given a couple of glasses of a type of schnapps mixed with lemon and sugar allowed to stand for a year or so and serve, drink and enjoy - powerful stuff - caused a rash of plunging back into the sea.
We were then invited to join our hosts for an excellent lunch after which we took another stroll down the beach after which we drove back to Primošten to buy some supplies for dinner......

Driving from PLitvička to Šibenic

After another hearty meal at our Sober in PLitvička we said goodbye to our hosts Vlado and Helena and hit the road to šibenic - 195km away.
We stopped once for tea early on and then again for a good break in the town of Zadar to stretch our legs , this is how we turn a 2.5 hour journey into a 7 hour journey, a horrifying part of the trip were the villages we drove through still bearing the ravages of the war in 1991 - 1995, one village Biljane Donje was shredded and mostly still abandoned.

Moving swiftly on down the road We saw a sign for a castle in a town called Benkovac so needing no further excuse for a leg stretch in we went and out we got for a quick peruse of the castle.

Then on again or not quite as we were now lost, we had tried to stay off the main highway, peddling along secondary roads not always clearly marked, correction ... Not marked, so with a lot of backwards and forwarding and stopping at a military base to ask for directions - Yes I asked for directions - the GPS had gone off the map and gone very silent, probably asking another GPS for directions, the paper backup map didn't match the road signs or the road - so we asked for directions, not too long and we were back on track - did I mention our tried and tested technique of turning 2 hours into 7 hours.
Took 3 attempts backwards and forwards over a distance of about 400 meters just to find the road to our next stop - OK OK so we were tired from driving foreign ( left hand drive) for hours.

Now settled in to our apartment after an excellent fish dinner in a neighboring town Primošten
And what should happen next..... Yes you guessed it .... No you didn't ...... For my South African readers we had a bit of load shedding, for everyone else a power failure - actually it was brought on by a nice little lightning storm

And so to bed......

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

PLitvička Lakes national park

After breakfast we strolled off in high spirits in the brisk.... Very brisk... very very brisk morning air was probably about 4C for the lakes a couple of minutes walk away from our Sobe ( for those who are just tuning in a Sobe is a guest house)

First we had to purchase tickets into the park and then a quick "bus" ( see photo) ride down to the starting point and then off on foot down into the gorge with the most incredible blue lake below us.

For the rest of the morning followed paths next to the most incredibly clear lakes fill by innumerable waterfalls, fantastic views all jostling for superiority with each other.
Then at the major waterfall Pam wisely opted to stay at the bottom while I climbed 78 m high path about 400 steps - although I think it was closer to 346543 steps, heart attack heaven, but I have to say the view of the waterfall was spectacular.
Little side story - we happened on a small cave beside the path which I duly popped my nose into, was a very small cave so only got the nose in.... so I moved on up the path, eventually 10 or so photos later I noticed I had mislaid Pam, so retracing my steps and not seeing her in the path I got quite concerned she may have fallen in the lake - could happen, but no... there she was standing head stuck into the mouth of the cave yelling for me... I had somehow passed her on the way out of the cave, how I don't know but I did ..... and yes of course I laughed, what did you expect.....

Lunch time.... and a well deserved stop to eat at a very well appointed picnic spot with a small restaurant, had an excellent 1/2 roast chicken and chips washed down with a beer shandy - damn I can eat after a good mornings hike in the pristine mountain air.

Afternoon involved a boat ride across one of the lakes and then more hiking, lakes, waterfalls the colours and spectacle of the falls and lakes is incomparable, the most striking blues and emerald greens, finally with feet threatening an overthrow of the body we happily arrived back at the Sobe (hope none of you have forgotten what a Sobe is) for another excellent dinner of lamb chops, chips, tomatoes and mushrooms cooked by Helena